It’s a Wonderful, WOWderful Life

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the debut of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. For those who haven’t seen it at least once during its annual rebroadcast around Christmas, the movie tells the tale of George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart.

George had aspirations to change the world in big ways, but his father’s death and a growing family kept him in Bedford Falls. George gave up his dreams to travel the world to run his father’s loan business. When thousands of dollars accidentally disappear, a suicidal George plans to jump from a bridge until an angel named Clarence shows George what life for those living in Bedford Falls would have been like had George never been born.

When Alice, Jackie, Marie, and I stopped in Seneca Falls, New York, on our way home from the 35th Women On Wheels® International Ride-In™ in July, Alice and I visited the Seneca Falls It’s a Wonderful Life Museum at 32 Fall Street.

The opening scene of “It’s a Wonderful Life” welcomes viewers to Bedford Falls. The film’s director, Frank Capra, visited Seneca Falls in 1945 looking for inspiration. The fictional town of Bedford Falls is said to closely resemble Seneca Falls.
Luckily there was no snow in Bedford Falls when we visited in July, but Christmas decor can be found inside the museum all year round.

At the end of the movie, George looks inside a book given to him by Clarence. The book is only one of dozens of movie props in the Museum.

Yes, Clarence, no man [or woman] is a failure who has friends.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if Women On Wheels® had never been born.

I cannot imagine as it’s truly been a WOWderful life.


The 75th Anniversary Celebration of “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Seneca Falls, NY
December 8-12, 2021

By Cris

Paving the Way

“Perhaps we women should remember the suffragists whenever we wear trousers, ride a bicycle, sign a petition, or participate in a demonstration because these and many other things are now ours to choose as a result of their journey.” – Stephanie Hall1

This sign at the corner of Mynderse and Fall Streets in Seneca Falls, New York, marks the spot of the first woman’s rights convention held in the United States organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton on July 19-20, 1848.

Alice, Jackie, Marie, and I stopped here on our way home from the 35th International Women On Wheels® Ride-In™ held in Lake George, New York, July 13-15, 2021.

The Seneca Falls Convention laid the groundwork for changing the future for women, including a woman’s right to vote, but it also had an impact on female fashion.

“Fashions of the time were restrictive and contributed to women being seen as incapable. Voluminous skirts were both pointed to as evidence that women were incompetent and in fact limited what they were able to do.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was interested in dress reform and learned of a new fashion worn by activist Elizabeth Smith Miller: a skirt or dress over loose trousers. She tried the outfit and introduced it to another activist and editor of the progressive magazine, The Lily, Amelia Bloomer in 1851. Bloomer promoted this new form of dress, particularly a version with very full trousers drawn in at the ankle. What was then called the “Bloomer outfit” was extremely controversial and was ridiculed by those who opposed social change.”2

Period illustration of a Bloomer Outfit, with a (relatively) short skirt over pantaloons. The engraving may depict Elizabeth Smith Miller.

“Stanton, Bloomer, and [Susan B.] Anthony all agreed that they should disassociate the suffrage movement from the Bloomer Outfit controversy so Amelia Bloomer’s bloomers did not catch on in the 1850’s, either as a suffrage garment or as fashion. But the problem of garments that got in the way of working, sports, and even ordinary activities of life continued to be a problem.

This changed with the introduction of the safety bicycle, a bicycle with two wheels of the same size that was easy for women to ride. Women could ride it with skirts, though its introduction did help raise hemlines. But garments for riding the bicycle: split skirts and full trousers gathered in below the knee started appearing in the 1880s and became the rage by the 1890s. The trousers were often called bloomers, although they had little resemblance to Amelia Bloomer’s costume of the 1850s.

There were, of course, grave concerns about women mounting bicycles and freely going off on their own, showing the shape of their legs as they did so. Women cycled on undaunted. When it came to greater freedom of dress and movement, the coming of the safety bicycle helped to bring an era of change that was unstoppable.”3

Or did it?

Bessie Stringfield was the first African-American woman to ride solo across the United States, making eight long-distance rides covering the lower 48 states at a time when women were not supposed to wear pants or ride a motorcycle. During World War II, Bessie worked as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider. Despite completing intensive training and being the only female in her army unit, Bessie encountered prejudice on the road.

Dot Robinson also set an example in a time when motorcycling wasn’t considered proper for a woman. Dot worked as a motorcycle courier during WWII and assisted in the creation of the Motor Maids. Dot earned many motorcycle endurance race trophies, but she had to fight to compete. Attempts were made to prevent her from participating in the sport she loved, but she persevered and was allowed to compete, making it possible for other women to race.

In 1916, sisters Augusta and Adeline Van Buren rode coast to coast and were the first women to ride motorized vehicles to the summit of Pikes Peak. They wanted to convince the military that women were able to serve as dispatch riders. Although they did not achieve that goal, they proved that women were capable of far more than society was willing to accept.

“At the time, in many towns, especially in rural America, women wearing pants was a serious violation of the social order. Gussie and Addie were just out of Chicago, barreling west through the ring of small townships that radiated from the city through central Illinois, when they were pulled over by police for their scandalous dress and cited for wearing men’s clothing. This pattern was repeated several times as the sisters roared into towns unaccustomed to women on motorcycles, especially women unaccompanied by men, and definitely not accustomed to women on motorcycles, without men, wearing pants. Still, they persisted.”4

We, that ride, should always remember to honor those that paved the way for us to wear whatever we desire no matter where our journeys take us.

1, 2,3Hall, Stephanie. “Symbolism in the Women’s Suffrage Movement”. August 24, 2020.


By Cris

Alice Looking Through the Glass

On a recent weeknight ride (24 May 2021), I was not able to join this ride on two wheels. Since I was still “on the clock” at my Daycare by Grandma job, my grandson Paul and I met at the designated meetup place in my car. Paul was excited to see the motorcycles and to be a part of the ride.

We had seven people on this ride—five bikes and one car. We followed the group and things were fine until the group came to a 4-way stop. As expected the bikes were able to continue as a group, but we had to wait our turn. At this point when we got separated from the bikes by a car and a truck, Paul, in his three year old voice said, “gran-ma, catch up to the mo-cycles.” Unfortunately we were on a road with no passing and Paul was not happy. I eventually was able to catch up and slip in behind the last bike. In the meantime, as many parents know what often happens to their little ones during a car ride, Paul did just that—he fell asleep. And he didn’t wake until we stopped at a gas station in Fenton to refuel before riding/driving our separate ways home.

The roads traveled were fantastic. A route summary: Long Road to Missouri State Hwy CC/Wild Horse Creek Road to Hwy 109 to MO State Hwy W to Twin River Road to MO State PP to Rock Creek Road to East Romaine Creek Road ending at gas station on Old Hwy 141 in Fenton. See map of this weeknight ride’s route.

In fact a google search of “good motorcycle routes in Jefferson County MO” gave me several routes. One, in particular listed our route in reverse (Hwy PP/Rock Creek Road to Twin River Road to W to 109 and on). Under Driver[Rider] Enjoyment for this route it says, “the road … is almost devoid of straight sections, with lots of elevation changes. There are some tight, technical corners that might catch out an inexperienced rider, but the ride is more fun than scary.”

Many of this weeknight’s ride was on roads I have ridden before and I remembered Rock Creek Road, in particular. Rock Creek Road has twisties and hairpin curves (think Missouri’s version of the Tail of the Dragon). Here is a pictorial of this windy road.

For a person who loves those types of roads, it was fun in a car but is even better on two wheels. Here are some photos taken from the car on those less-than-twisty roads.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (and shoulders, back, arms, legs, and feet)

“I made it through the rain

And found myself respected

By the others who

Got rained on too

And made it through.”

Manilow, Barry. Kenny, Gerard, Sheppard, Drey, Manilow Barry, Sussman, Bruce, Feldman, Jack. “I Made it Through the Rain,”. Barry (1980). Accessed 23 May 2021.
A filthy motorcycle is a badge of honor. It means you’ve endured and conquered a ride in the rain!

The below is reprinted (with edits) from the archives–dated 30 September 1999. These tips were circulated prior to the Chapter’s road trip to Kansas City to attend the Harley-Davidson® Assembly Plant’s Open House with the Show-Me Riders (Kansas City) Chapter.

It turns out it was very timely advice as a group of 12 or so Heartland riders showed up at the plant after riding 100+ miles in the cold and rain. A more sensible Kansas City group arrived in cars.

We are still getting rained on and deeply respect those who find themself in the middle of a drizzle or downpour for the first (Jo!), 4th, 40th or 400th time.

I found this short paragraph about riding in the rain.

” . . . at such times it rains hard or fast enough to soak even the most properly prepared rider. During such storms even cars pull over on the side of the road when visibility lessens. While I don’t encourage riding under such conditions, I have learned a great deal about the capabilities of my bike and its tires while caught in the rain. If you’re careful, watch out for puddles, avoid rain tracks in the lane, and prepare more for braking, it can actually be fun. More importantly, it builds confidence. If you haven’t ridden in the rain, how do you know you have the skills to survive a downpour? It’s all part of riding.” (Source no longer known.)

While I wouldn’t agree and say that riding in the rain is “fun”, it is one of those skills all riders need to have and hope we don’t have to use these skills often, though.

Being “properly prepared” includes purchasing good-quality rain gear. There are several styles made from different materials. Find gear that you feel comfortable wearing. It should be snug but allows for free movement of your head, arms, and legs. As added protection, leather should be treated with a waterproofing agent. The best I found is “Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellent” from a military surplus store. This stuff needs to cure 24-48 hours so be sure to plan ahead.

Helmet visors and windshields should be treated with “Rain-X” or a similar product which helps “move” water off the surface and prevents fogging. Be sure to use a very soft towel when applying to prevent scratching. Apply to both the inside and outside of your visor. A windshield should be mounted low enough to see OVER (not through). It is very dangerous to be looking through a rain spattered face shield and windshield at the same time.

When chilly, a pair of latex gloves on the INSIDE of your gloves will help keep your hands warm by keeping your body temperature contained. When raining, a larger pair of latex gloves (used for washing dishes) will help keep your gloves and hands dry. Even the most waterproofed gear eventually gets soaked if it rains long and hard enough.

Newspapers are a motorcyclist’s best friend. They can be used for insulation–stuff a few sheets in your jacket to help keep you warm–or crumple and stuff pages into your boots to soak up moisture overnight.

As for riding in the rain:

  • Slow down!
  • Increase your following distance.
  • Watch for puddles. Cars making huge splashes ahead of you are a good clue.
  • Increase your stopping distance and ease the brakes on gradually/front and rear/evenly.
  • Increase your speed gradually.
  • The road is most slippery when it first starts to rain. Oil and gunk which has built up on the road rises to the surface.
  • Take extra caution at gas stations . . . see above.
  • Avoid painted road surfaces.
  • DO NOT STOP under overpasses! If you cannot see, other drivers may not see you.
  • Less experienced “rain riders” should be positioned in the right portion of the lane so they’ll be farther away from large vehicles who splash rain on motorcyclists. (This is the part I like least about riding in the rain.)
  • Keep an eye on the weather! I have taken shelter from a severe thunderstorm/tornado in a car wash twice and ridden in snow flurries. I do not recommend either. ALWAYS carry your cold/wet weather gear and have an emergency plan in place.
  • If there is lightning, get off the road and take cover.
  • Riding in the rain can be stressful. If you feel you are about to have a melt-down, find a safe place to pull over, rest, regroup, or call it a day.

All [rocky] Roads Lead to Ice Cream

Editor’s note: The text in italics about the ice cream cone’s introduction at the 1904 World’s Fair and the history of Velvet Freeze ice cream is borrowed from

In the April/May/June 2021 issue of “Women On Wheels®” magazine, it was announced that this year’s Member Challenge is riding for ice cream. WOW wants unique and quirky pictures of ice cream shops taken while members spread the word about WOW.

For International Female Ride Day on May 1, the Heartland Chapter took on the ice cream challenge. Of course we would. St. Louis has a long history with ice cream.

“Legend has it that at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, a man purchased a waffle from a waffle man who happened to be next to an ice cream wagon. On impulse, the man rolled the fresh waffle into a cone, purchasing a scoop of ice cream and placed it inside his twisted waffle. The waffle man and the ice cream man saw the possibilities. Soon they were working together, selling ice cream cones.

By the end of 1935, brothers Oscar and Alexander Grosberg and Jacob Martin had formed Velvet Freeze, Inc. Within a year, Velvet Freeze had 50 stores in the St. Louis area. For many years, an 18′ tall fiberglass double-dip cone stood outside the two-story warehouse at 3230 Gravois. By June of 1986, the Velvet Freeze ice cream factory had ceased operation. The Affton School District acquired the cone in 1992.”

Velvet Freeze Plant, mid to late 1940s. Photo at
Roadside Attractions calls this the “Big School Ice Cream Cone”. You can find it on the grounds of Mesnier Elementary School at 6930 Weber Road in Affton, Missouri.

Only one Velvet Freeze remains in operation in the St. Louis area at 7355 West Florissant in Jennings. Unfortunately, the store was not open for business for another hour when we stopped and we decided not to wait. Happily, our ice cream cravings were not denied.

Where’s Wadlow?

“This is the first time in my life that I’ve ever felt small, and I like it.”

Robert Wadlow, “The Tallest Man in History” – The History Guy

The star of the “Where’s Waldo” series of books is a man in an iconic red-and-white striped shirt, round glasses, and a pom-pom hat trying to hide. Illustrated by Martin Handford, some spreads have thousands of similarly striped figures designed to challenge readers to find him in a crowd.

By the time Robert Wadlow started kindergarten in 1923 , he was already 5′ 4″ tall–the height of a 15 year-old boy. By the time he graduated from high school, he was 8′ 3″ tall and wore a size 37AA shoe.

Wadlow continued to grow until his death at age 22, reaching 8′ 11″ and earning the title of the World’s Tallest Man by Guinness World Records. A life-size statue and replica chair can be found in his hometown at 2810 College Avenue in Alton, Illinois.

While Waldo is drawn to be lost in a crowd, Wadlow didn’t have that option. Robert stood out wherever he went, except once among a grove of sequoia trees on a visit to California–see quote above.

While standing next to the statue, I put something into perspective. It’s easy to want things that are not guaranteed. At 5′ 2″ tall (or short), I often wished I had grown just a few inches more. Wadlow died at 22; I’m well into my 50’s. I can ride a motorcycle wearing normal-sized clothes and a size 10 women’s (men’s size 8.5) shoe.

On this day, it was especially nice to fit into a small crowd of COVID-19 vaccinated friends after 13 months apart and not feel hidden like Waldo or “too seen” like Wadlow.

Who can wish for anything more than that?

By Cris

What’s in a Name?

“It’s really useful to travel, if you want to see new things.”

― Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days

The theme of the 2021 MO WOW Touring Contest is “Missouri places named after other places”.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of them!

The rules also state that we can include Missouri towns that are spelled exactly like the same town in another state. For example: Fulton MO/KS, Pittsburgh MO/KS/PA, or Alma MO/KS/AR (and my favorite, WI!).

As persons in our group research similarly named places and our ride schedule grows, this is just a sampling. On this route, the Auburn (MO/AL/IL/IN/WA) destination was unsuccessful (and deserves a revisit) and we skipped Davis (MO/CA/OK) due to time.

“Old School” navigation system used in conjunction with my phone’s GPS. I prefer to use both when riding on scenic “Alphabet Soup” roads.
Winfield (MO/IL/KS)
Foley (MO/AL)
New Hope (MO/MN/PA). Post offices, police stations, schools, and other standard city buildings/markers/signs can be hard to find or dangerous to stop and photograph on many roads. One can usually find a church to document travels to smaller towns/remote locations.
Troy (MO/AL/MI). You can take the Alma WI farm girl off the farm, but the connection to rural America remains after 35 years in the suburbs of St. Louis. I hope to visit Alma and Winona MO soon in recognition of my alma maters–Alma (WI) High School and Winona (MN) State University.

By Enforcer

Little Mary’s River Covered Bridge

Glow recently rode to one of Illinois’ six remaining covered bridges.

Located 4.3 miles northeast of the junction of Illinois Routes 3 and 150 between Chester and Bremen, the Little Mary’s River Covered Bridge is the oldest bridge in Illinois and the only covered bridge in the southern part of the state.

Per, “The Little Mary’s bridge near Chester, Illinois, was reportedly the scene of two spectacular stagecoach holdups shortly after the Civil War. Now, the center of attraction in a state-maintained picnic grounds, it is viewed by thousands annually.

In the early days the Little Mary’s bridge was opened as a toll span like many such structures in the southern half of the state. It was operated by the Randolph County Plank Road Co., chartered by the state assembly in 1853, and A. E. Hortmon of near Chester was the designer and builder. The turnpike was a single-lane road with frequent turnouts provided to enable traffic to pass and the river bridge was one of the stopping places to pay fares.

Plank roads never became a vital cog in the state transportation system as the coming of the railroad sounded on early death knell for them. For a time the plank road carried a heavy volume of horse and ox-drawn traffic between Chester and Bremen. Plank roads were made by cross-laying eight-foot planks, three inches thick and 12 inches wide, over stringers flush with the ground level.”

Can you imagine riding a motorcycle on this “road”?

Little Mary’s River flows underneath the bridge.
Some history about the bridge can be found in the U. S. Department of the Interior National Park Services’ National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form as received on September 20, 1974

Bridge and sign photographs by Glow


Google defines patchwork as “a thing composed of many different elements so as to appear variegated” and defines variegated as “exhibiting different colors, especially as irregular patches or streaks.”

Each year the Chapters of Missouri State Women On Wheels® participate in an annual touring/photo contest to discover new roads and destinations while looking for objects in a theme:

  • 2016: Missouri State Parks
  • 2017: Missouri Historic Sites
  • 2018: Famous Missourians
  • 2019: Military Monuments
  • 2020: Barn Quilts

To me, the interesting thing about the 2020 contest is that the themed objects and roads to find them are both a patchwork of sorts.

This Google Maps patchwork through the farm land that borders both sides of the Mississippi River will take you over a bridge in Louisiana, Missouri, around Calhoun County, Illinois, and back home to Missouri via ferry where I found these (and many other) barn quilts:

On this route (or a small variation of it), I found my first barn quilts. It wasn’t long before I was hooked. Let’s be honest. To find these quilts, you have to ride to where the barns are. Most of the the barns are on scenic, two-lane back roads–the roads I prefer to ride.

As a farmer’s daughter, I have always been intrigued by the architecture of these old barns. Imagine the history they most hold; what stories they might tell.

Yes, the barns are still beautiful, but these days a couple hundred miles of riding without the discovery of a random barn quilt or the purposeful navigation of one of the many quilt trails in America, brings a sense of mild disappointment when the perfect spot to mount some beautiful patchwork remains empty.

For those with an interest in barns:

For those interested in the history of barn quilts:

Information on Missouri Barn Quilt Trails:

Information on Illinois Barn Quilt Trails:

By Cris

What do you get if you combine nice weather, a planned journey of twisty roads, three bikes with full gas tanks, and three women (Cris, Sandy, and I) who are eager to go riding? You get the ride we experienced on Monday, the first of June 2020.

Cris planned and led this ride. Our ride consisted of state roads of letters and numbers such as, A, C, D N, T, Z, KK, YY, 47, 94, 100, and 185 (these are listed alphabetically and numerically, not listed in order traveled). As you can see from the map below, there were many twisties, sweeping curves, and a few straight-aways. I love twisties and I practice outside-inside-outside riding through them. (I was taught this by a motorcop. A link and photo of this technique follows this article.)

Anyway, I rode sweeper this time. As I love twisties I had to remind myself to allow the rider in front of me enough room to “ride her own ride” and navigate the twisties as she saw fit. I think I did well, but there were a few times I got closer than I meant to and one of Meghan Trainor’s songs “All About That Bass” came to mind. With a nod and apologies to Meghan Trainor, I was singing “it’s all about that brake, ‘bout that brake, no throttle” as I tried to keep my distance from the second rider.

It was a good day and we all had a good ride. We even found a barn quilt for photo entry in our Missouri WOW Touring Contest.

After riding about 70+ miles on serene country roads, we stopped at a Dairy Queen parking lot just to talk (social distancing was observed) before heading home.

Good day, good friends, good roads!

By Alice